The City of Stamford, CT Land Use Bureau retained the Collective to develop a comprehensive community-based plan for the South End neighborhood – a 322-acre waterfront peninsula. After a thorough community-engagement process, CCCE’s team created zoning, historic preservation, and urban design guidelines for affordable housing, office and retail development, as well as recommendations for new educational, cultural and landscape amenities.
CCCE’s team worked with stakeholders and participants in a series of public forums and interviews to explore the potential for a shared vision and priorities for the future of the neighborhood, and to develop an action plan for the next steps toward implementation. Across all groups of participants in the South End Neighborhood Study—seven widely shared and linked priorities emerged:
1. Funds and strategies to support affordability, including affordable home ownership, to keep low and middle-income families in the neighborhood.
2. Protection of and reinvestment in the remaining historic district buildings to avoid permanent erasure of character, community culture, and affordable homes and retail spaces.
3. Immediate revision of zoning codes, through inclusive processes, to define an acceptable level of growth, better integrate new development with the neighborhood, and reduce uncertainty.
4. Creation of a new public elementary and middle school and civic campus on public land adjacent to the Lathon Wider Community Center to build a stable, intergenerational and kid-friendly community.
5. Investment in strategic upgrades to transportation infrastructure and management to improve traffic congestion and parking, and better accommodate the growing number of residents and workers.
6. Upgrades to streetscape and lighting to improve safety, bring people out, connect the different districts of the South End, and create lively commercial areas.
7. Zoning and historic preservation measures to create a real neighborhood “Main Street” for the South End that supports significant growth of small businesses and affordable retail.
CCCE’s recommended zoning changes include the creation of two new special purpose zoning districts that employ additional controls and incentives, such as transferable development rights, to increase development opportunities in some areas in order to preserve historic buildings in areas that might otherwise be erased wholesale to achieve the highest returns on investment by developers.
To accomplish this, CCCE’s team recommends the use of Transfers of Development Rights (TDRs) to permit the transfer of unused development rights from parcels containing existing affordable housing and historically or architecturally significant buildings. TDR will help preserve existing building stock and mix, and shift development potential to areas better suited to higher-density, large-footprint development.
To encourage the development of a stable community with residents who are invested in its future—a desire expressed clearly in the community forums—we recommend requiring a range of apartment sizes in new developments, including two- and three-bedroom units, to accommodate growing families and encourage long-term residency.
CCCE modeled two development scenarios – high-growth and moderate growth – in which all of the historic district buildings were preserved. We explored the benefits of allowing Transfers of Development Rights (TDRs) in order to preserve more of the existing building stock and affordable dwellings and retail and to steer the tall and dense development away from the low-rise community in the South End.
CCCE’s urban designers recommended diversifying the mix of buildings, especially in the middle scale of new construction, to create a more effective bridge between the existing small-scale residential community and larger new buildings.
To explore community and stakeholder evaluation of the two development scenarios, and overall growth levels, the team presented the high and moderate scenarios at the June 2018 public forum. Participants in that public meeting expressed a preference for the moderate scenario, which they saw as a very high level of development over a short period in a small, historic community.
All stakeholders—whether longstanding residents, newer residents, or workers—said that the current retail offerings in the South End were too limited and lacked a mix of price points, particularly affordable options.
Based on retail supply and demand, our retail consultants estimate the South End can currently support an additional 38,000 square feet of retail. With future development in keeping with the moderate growth scenario (a total of 15,000 residents and 5,000 workers), the South End could support an additional 96,000 square feet of retail.
Based on these findings, CCCE and its retail consultants developed an “Action Plan for Affordable Retail” to:
• Develop a Neighborhood Commercial Zoning Overlay for Pacific Street
• Prioritize streetscape, parking, and park improvements in the Overlay District
• Consider targeted measures to strengthen other retail sub-districts, particularly at the train station and Harbor Point area.